Anyone who has driven for a few years has no doubt had that flutter in their chest when they see the flashing blue and red lights in their rearview mirror.
- Police can pull you over for a number of reasons
- You don’t need to give anything other than your name, address, and driver’s licence if requested
- If you’re asked to stay in the car, then stay in the car
Being pulled over by the police, for whatever reason, can be a daunting and scary experience, particularly if you’ve not had much to do with those in the law before.
Whether you have been stopped for speeding, or pulled over for a random breath test (RBT), you should keep in mind that police are doing their job. But also keep in mind that you have rights as a road user, and you are not obliged to answer any questions or give any other information other than your name, address, and hand over your driver’s licence, if requested.
So, if you get pulled over at night and they ask where you’re going, you don’t have to answer. Or if you’re asked why you were driving in a particular manner, or in a certain direction, you don’t need to answer that, either.
But what about getting out of the car? Many of us will have had that inclination, but the common thought is that, if you’re pulled over, you should remain in your car. You might also want to put it in park or neutral, put the handbrake or parking brake on, and maybe even turn off the engine.
If you’re going to stay in the car, and wish to film any interaction with an officer for whatever reason (which you are allowed to), then having the engine off is a good move. You don’t want to cop another fine for using your phone while driving…
Note that in nearly all traffic policing situations, your interactions will be recorded, either by audio, video, or both.
If you want to get out of the car to discuss the situation with the officer, they may ask you to return to the vehicle, or may even tell you via the speaker on the vehicle to remain in the car before you attempt to get out.
This could be in the interests of your safety. If you are pulled over on a busy road, or a main highway, then it is reasonable for an officer to want to stop you from walking on that roadway or too close to it, as a means of protecting you and other road users.
Alternatively, if the officer believes you may be under the influence of alcohol, then you being inside a car is theoretically going to be safer than walking, inebriated, on or near a roadway.
A NSW police officer we spoke to backed up that notion, telling CarExpert that while every traffic stop is based on individual circumstances, there’s no requirement to get in or out of the car.
However, it is considered best practice for anyone who has been pulled over to stay in the car, in the aim of keeping everyone safe.
The officer recounted that people have been struck by other vehicles while getting out of their car to confront or converse with police, and likewise, there have been incidents where officers have been struck at the roadside.
Further, while there is no legal requirement for someone to stay put and there is no offence that you can be charged with “unless you’re running away”, – it will always be the safest course of action to stay in your car.
They also said that drivers who may have done the wrong thing could be more likely to be let off with a warning if they interact with officers in a responsible and respectful manner.
As for the idea of not telling the officer anything other than your name and address, and not answering questions, it’s a matter of personal preference. But this officer told us that you’re “not doing yourself any favours” by being obtuse or difficult.
As such, it is best to be polite, and if you’re in the wrong, admitting it may lead to leniency, or at least the cop feeling bad after they give you a ticket.